Musical Documentaries - Insights into musicians, their lives and their music

sachinchavan 15865

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Starting this thread exclusively for documentaries on music and musicians. Let’s share what we watched and we liked. To keep it kosher, avoid posting music videos or mere live show recordings. Let’s keep this thread only for documentaries (or interviews). They can be about music in general (any genre) or about specific artists (individuals/bands/gharanas etc).

To keep up the quality of the thread, please don’t just dump links to YouTube videos. It’s a documentary you’ve watched and liked. So pen a few sentences about it - what it is about, what you liked in it, what you learnt, etc.

Let this thread help us get behind the music and and the musicians we love and increase our appreciation of these artists and their art.
 

sachinchavan 15865

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Let me start with this documentary that I watched couple of days ago (and triggered the idea of this thread). It’s about the music and life of perhaps the most loved sub-continental pop artist of all times. Indipop (for want of a suitable name as it’s not limited to India alone, but includes artists from Pakistan and Bangladesh as well) has been around for over 50 years now, but the immense love and admiration Nazia Hassan received during her lifetime and nostalgia about her even twenty years after she passed away is simply unparalleled.

The documentary itself is quite well-made and goes chronologically over Nazia’s life. Its maker, Riffat Humayun, who I found out is a writer, producer, director with PTV, has woven vignettes from her personal and professional life into a nicely flowing tapestry. It also contains snippets from many of Nazia’s live shows which I hadn’t seen before and effectively sketches her career graph.

Better still, it goes into ‘Nazia’ the person behind the artist - her personality, her activities including philanthropy and her family. Mind you, she was a highly educated and socially active person. The detailed memoir by her mother at her parental house towards the end adds a very personal touch. I liked that there are just one/two interviews with others not reducing the documentary to mere ‘reminiscences’.

Nazia for me, just like to any youngster coming of age in the 80s and 90s was a special star. She, along with Biddu, was instrumental in altering the course of Bollywood music with her ‘Aap Jaisa Koi’. I’d always liked her as a person and loved her music. But watching this documentary took my admiration a couple of notches even higher. At the end of it I felt I was witnessing a rare purity that made it a wee bit spiritual experience as well.

Here’s ‘Nazia Hassan - The Nightingale of Pakistan’:

 
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mbhangui

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Let me start with this documentary that I watched couple of days ago (and triggered the idea of this thread). It’s about the music and life of perhaps the most loved sub-continental pop artist of all times. Indipop (for want of a suitable name as it’s not limited to India alone, but includes artists from Pakistan and Bangladesh as well) has been around for over 50 years now, but the immense love and admiration Nazia Hassan received during her lifetime and nostalgia about her even twenty years after she passed away is simply unparalleled.

The documentary itself is quite well-made and goes chronologically over Nazia’s life. Its maker, Riffat Humayun, who I found out is a writer, producer, director with PTV, has woven vignettes from her personal and professional life into a nicely flowing tapestry. It also contains snippets from many of Nazia’s live shows which I hadn’t seen before and effectively sketches her career graph.

Better still, it goes into ‘Nazia’ the person behind the artist - her personality, her activities including philanthropy and her family. Mind you, she was a highly educated and socially active person. The detailed memoir by her mother at her parental house towards the end adds a very personal touch. I liked that there are just one/two interviews with others not reducing the documentary to mere ‘reminiscences’.

Nazia for me, just like to any youngster coming of age in the 80s and 90s was a special star. She, along with Biddu, was instrumental in altering the course of Bollywood music with her ‘Aap Jaisa Koi’. I’d always liked her as a person and loved her music. But watching this documentary took my admiration a couple of notches even higher. At the end of it I felt I was witnessing a rare purity that made it a wee bit spiritual experience as well.

Here’s ‘Nazia Hassan - The Nightingale of Pakistan’:

I was in Xth standard. That year I studying in KV, Chakeri Kanpur and this song "Aap Jaisa Kohi" had become an extremely popular hit throughout India. The lunch period used to have some of our guys locking the classroom door and grooving to this song. This article brought back memories of that period.
 

sachinchavan 15865

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Now here’s one of the most exceptional documentaries I’ve ever seen. It’s docufiction in fact, or more accurately, a poetic documentary on the life of the great 20th century Thumri singer from Benares, ‘Siddheshwari Devi’.

Hindustani classical music has a strong element of abstraction, and Siddheshwari Devi herself was no ordinary artist. So naturally, you needed someone like Mani Kaul - one of the pioneers of Indian New Wave cinema to make a documentary on her. It’s not a linear narrative, you have to access it like you’d access a poetry, or a painting. Though it contains biographical moments from the legend’s life, it is also a story of Thumri itself as an art form as also that of the ghats of Benares. A highly immersive ambient creation, it can only be experienced, not explained.

Mita Vashishth is one of the strongest actors the Indian parallel cinema has had in the 80s and 90s. A bold performer, she was upto any challenge and possessed a personality that could bewitch you and a gaze that could kill you. Also one of Kaul’s favourite actors, she has done absolute justice to his vision in this film.

This documentary was listed among “The Greatest Documentaries of All Time” by Sight and Sound in 2014, and if you are a true lover of either Hindustani classical music or the Indian parallel cinema, or both, you shouldn’t miss it.

 

mbhangui

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Now here’s one of the most exceptional documentaries I’ve ever seen. It’s docufiction in fact, or more accurately, a poetic documentary on the life of the great 20th century Thumri singer from Benares, ‘Siddheshwari Devi’.

Hindustani classical music has a strong element of abstraction, and Siddheshwari Devi herself was no ordinary artist. So naturally, you needed someone like Mani Kaul - one of the pioneers of Indian New Wave cinema to make a documentary on her. It’s not a linear narrative, you have to access it like you’d access a poetry, or a painting. Though it contains biographical moments from the legend’s life, it is also a story of Thumri itself as an art form as also that of the ghats of Benares. A highly immersive ambient creation, it can only be experienced, not explained.

Mita Vashishth is one of the strongest actors the Indian parallel cinema has had in the 80s and 90s. A bold performer, she was upto any challenge and possessed a personality that could bewitch you and a gaze that could kill you. Also one of Kaul’s favourite actors, she has done absolute justice to his vision in this film.

This documentary was listed among “The Greatest Documentaries of All Time” by Sight and Sound in 2014, and if you are a true lover of either Hindustani classical music or the Indian parallel cinema, or both, you shouldn’t miss it.

It's a tragedy that the singers/producers did not have access to good recording equipment and I guess many such songs recorded on shellac have been lost for ever.
 

mbhangui

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@mbhangui, try archive.org. I could find a trove of old Indian classical recordings not available on any other platform.
Fabulous. WIll try that. Recently I found one site which has few songs that I heard long long time back. I have been trying to locate songs that I heard on my grandmother's HMV gramophone. Mostly they were devotional songs, abhangs, etc before the 1940s. One example is this song sung by Meenakshi Shirodkar -

माझी आगबोट चालली


Even my own wife who is a born, pakka marathi manoos, has never heard these songs in her life. My village house in Goa had one room filled with such records.
 

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One of the earliest documentaries pioneering the cinema - verite style , on Ustad Alauddin Khan by the legendary Ritwik Ghatak. It provides a deep insight into the utterly secular , universal humanity of Khan the musician ,artist and philosopher. The erudite narration was written by Ghatak as far as I remember.
Even Ray was an admirer of this work.

 

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One of the most remarkable documentary films on Sixto Rodriguez ,an US singer composer , who made two classic art rock albums in the 70s and then faded away into obscurity , working for 2 decades as a building construction labour !!
While being completely unaware that at the same time ,throughout 80s and 90s , in South Africa, he was being worshipped as a cult rock legend through tapes and records pirated into the country , by fans who thought he was dead !

This documentary chronicles this remarkable Phoenix like rebirth of the artist and brought him again into mainstream stardom in the US.

 

acemachine26

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One of the most remarkable documentary films on Sixto Rodriguez ,an US singer composer , who made two classic art rock albums in the 70s and then faded away into obscurity , working for 2 decades as a building construction labour !!
While being completely unaware that at the same time ,throughout 80s and 90s , in South Africa, he was being worshipped as a cult rock legend through tapes and records pirated into the country , by fans who thought he was dead !

This documentary chronicles this remarkable Phoenix like rebirth of the artist and brought him again into mainstream stardom in the US.

This is the first one that came to mind, stellar documentary. I also highly recommend the Remastered series on Netflix. It covers a wide range of mysteries throughout music history. Like strange disappearances or murders of artists. My favorite is probably 'Massacre at the Stadium' which is about the murder of Argentinian singer-songwriter and freedom fighter Victor Jara.

One I absolutely love watching over and over again is the BBC documentary tited 'When Albums Ruled the World'. It shows how the LP changed popular music for ever between the mid-1960s and the late 1970s by allowing artists to express themselves as never before. Truly captures everything I love about the format.
 

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The best documentary on RD Burman. With interviews and very interesting anecdotes from musicians , artists , composers and a bunch of dedicated fans sharing their insights. Fascinating to watch for anyone remotely interested in retro Bollywood music. It’s not on YouTube though.

Found only this snippet though
 
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